My 10 year old daughter decided she HAD to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris way back when she was all of five years old and enthralled with anything Barbie, especially the movies that she watched over and over and over. Her favorite was Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale, which was set in Paris and included dogs and dresses—her favorite things. But seeing the Eiffel Tower in the movie sparked a wish in her that grew with her as she aged. We tackled our tour with a cruise by boat before heading to the top of the tower.
When we had the chance to go see the Eiffel Tower—in person–recently, thanks to an airfare deal that was too good to pass up, we jumped at the opportunity.
Because of a combination of things, we had very little time in France. Our flight was landing at 5:25 p.m. and leaving at 11:30 the next night. We wanted to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, light a candle at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and squeeze in a stop to Disneyland Paris if we could make it happen. Oh, and get to the Eiffel Tower.
The Amazing Race
It was ambitious and felt a bit like “The Amazing Race”, but we did it. All of it. And I have to say, we did the Eiffel Tower best. And here’s how.
We booked a tour through Viator called ‘Paris Night Combo: Skip-the-Line Eiffel Tower Tour and Seine River Cruise with Champagne’ (link here). It met at the Trocadero, in front of the Palais de Chaillot, a landmark building essentially located across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. Our tour started at 7:30, with a mandate to meet the guide at 7:15 sharp.
Typically, from Charles de Gaulle airport, that would be an hour train ride, but you’d have to switch trains and I didn’t have confidence we’d do that right. I was hoping to drop our bags at our hotel first, so we checked in with the tourism desk at the airport, where they advised us to take a cab—most offer a flat rate of 50 euros per cab to city center. We confirmed the rate before climbing in and were on our way…and then hit traffic.
Lots of it.
After all, we were smack dab in the middle of rush-hour traffic.
Our driver didn’t speak much English, but could see by my body language that I was stressing out. He decided to take the side roads and do everything in his power to get us to the hotel and our meeting point, no matter what.
I had my doubts.
And it was depressing, because there was no Plan B.
Our tour was going to take us on a boat ride down the Seine River, complete with champagne drinks, for a nighttime view from the water of the City of Love. Then, we’d have a semi-private guided tour up to the second floor of the tower. Yes, we’d be standing on the tower.
And, as we raced down side roads, I was more and more concerned that we’d miss this amazing tour.
But our driver was determined. And he pulled up to our hotel at 7:08 p.m. We ran in, told the front desk who we were and that we’d check in later, left our bags with them and jumped back in the cab. Our hotel was just a third a mile from the famed tower. Seven minutes later, right at our deadline of 7:15, we pulled up to the Trocadero and spotted our point-person in his blue jacket.
Cruising the Seine River
My relief was immense—big enough to give our driver a 20 euro tip—and I finally felt like I could enjoy Paris. In the 15 minutes before the tour even started, I had time to run to a nearby vendor and buy a sweatshirt for my daughter and extra knit cap and scarf for myself, since it was colder than I’d anticipated.
Minutes later, we had earphones on with the voice of our guide coming over the radio, telling us interesting tidbits about this incredible monument that is instantly recognizable around the world.
The first thing our guide told us stunned me. She warned us to watch for pickpockets. She made it clear they were a real threat around the tower, and some had perfected the crime to an art form. There were warning signs posted, too. I was bummed to hear it was such an issue, but appreciated the tip since it would have put a real damper on the trip to be victimized.
After zipping up my pockets and backpack, I started snapping photos, all the way across the bridge to where our boat was docked. We climbed on board and grabbed a seat, departing quickly while being served a glass of champagne.
For the next hour, we listened in to interesting tidbits about the buildings we passed, from the Louvre to Notre Dame, under bridges with intricate carvings, past monuments we would have missed on land. I wish I could have taken notes to remember all the information, but my mind was on overload, trying to absorb all the beauty around me. The boat eventually returned back to the dock and we made our way to the base of the Eiffel Tower. I was awestruck. Even the guys hawking the souvenir statues didn’t distract from the thrill as we prepared to take the trip of a lifetime to the top.
To learn about part two of our tour, going up into the Eiffel Tower, go to this link:
To see highlights from our champagne tour, click here.